Skirmishes on all Armenian Fronts

Skirmishes on all Armenian Fronts

Azerbaijan proceeds to launch light raids at Armenia’s eastern (Gegharkunik – Tavush - Syunik) and newly-provoked western border (Yeraskh) in what can be described as a new campaign by the Azerbaijani Armed Forces (AZAF) to apply diplomatic pressure, and scrounge for as many strategic positions as possible along any border shared with the Republic of Armenia (RA).

Text: Zareh-Sevag Sarkissian

 

What is happening

A new front opened up near the town of Yeraskh on the border with occupied Nakhichevan on July 17th. It dramatically increased in intensity on the evening of July 19th with the AZAF utilising heavy calibre weapons, followed by a mortar barrage the following day. This even resulted in the wounding of the Yeraskh community head, while he was organising the extinguishing of fires as a result of the clashes. 

On July 29, Azerbaijani fire led to three Armenian serviceman’s deaths on the Gegharkunik border - around 1,000 Azeri troops have infiltrated and entrenched themselves since May 12th – as well as having an Aerostar drone downed in Vardenis by the Armenian Armed Forces. The fighting was intense, with the Azeri side suffering many casualties, but was ceased after the intervention of the Russian peacekeepers. This prompted an already-considered decision by the then-acting Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan to discuss the issue of deployment of Russian border guards all along the Armenian-Azerbaijani border; according to him, to allow the demarcation and delimitation of the border without any risk of military escalation.

The call to help was made and soon during the early days of August; the Armenian Ministry of Defence (MoD) confirmed the arrival of Russian border guards being stationed in Tavush, where the construction work of their new housing facilities began going underway. Patrols on the post-war border of Armenia and Azerbaijan in the direction of Vardenis are also being conducted by the border guards.

Nevertheless, the border clashes have continued to occur with losses on both sides, despite the Azerbaijani Ministry of Defence drastically understating its losses suffered particularly when inflicted by Armenian counter-fire. Most recently, on August 17th, an Armenian serviceman was wounded with the ensuing counterattack causing deaths and casualties among the Azeri troops, with one Azeri soldier confirmed killed by the Armenian MoD. And a day earlier, August 16th, two Armenian servicemen were shot dead in the Gegharkunik and Yeraskh regions, the former by random heavy calibre fire, and the latter by an Azeri sniper.

Despite the OSCE member state officials and representatives insisting that the entire ordeal be solved through peaceful and diplomatic means, the Armenian Minister of Defense Arshak Karapetyan affirmed the readiness to conduct all negotiations peacefully but ordered all commanders to take every measure within their rights to halt and prevent any provocations and encroachments into Armenian territory. 

In a surprising turn of events though, for the first time, the Russian peacekeeping contingent confirmed Azerbaijani drone strikes in Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh) where Azerbaijani armed forces delivered two strikes with the use of combat quadcopters on the position of the armed forces of Artsakh. Although many violations have occurred by the Azeri side before, this is the first to be acknowledged by Russia. It is interesting, however, that this was made a few days after Azerbaijan’s $2 billion deal with Israel on the purchase of arms.

 

Why is it happening

To better understand the facts of the attacks conducted by the AZAF on sovereign Armenian territory, the motive behind these actions should be reckoned with. Given the simple power structures, autocracies have within any given government, the actions of the AZAF are a direct embodiment of the concerns surrounding the regime in Baku, particularly its head, President Ilham Aliyev.

A major reason for the discontent of the Baku regime is the abrupt end to the 2020 Artsakh war despite them being able to push on and potentially wipe out all vestiges of Armenian presence in Artsakh if not for the Russian Federation’s last-minute intervention. Whether a deal was earlier agreed upon, President Aliyev was threatened, or Aliyev was persuaded, makes no difference. The fact remains that Artsakh has a large Armenian presence and an equally alarming Russian peacekeeper presence within. Despite agreeing on 2,000 infantry and only light vehicles, the Russian peacekeeping mission has sent double the number of men with all kinds of heavy and technologically superior armaments. This greatly concerns the Aliyev regime and the constant harassment of Armenia proper is a clear indication that it wants Armenia to settle and concede things about Artsakh which Armenian authorities otherwise would perhaps never do.

Moreover, Aliyev asserts that the conflict is now solved. Such is the rhetoric he has fed the Azerbaijani public. However, the great powers France, Russia, and the United States have rebutted this statement, stating that the OSCE is the sole forum through which the conflict is to be solved; and that the November 9 agreement is not the final say to direct the affairs of the region.

Ever-so boxing himself, the Azerbaijani society desires and demands the complete ethnic cleansing of Artsakh and is greatly discontent with the results the war has yielded. Yet, Aliyev knows such a thing is no longer politically feasible. Thus, the Azerbaijani president has inserted himself in a pincer where he must carefully balance between Russian, Turkish, and internal Azeri interests. The only way he can succeed without accrediting himself to a heavy burden is by forcing the Armenian side to concede even further to pay for his failed political manoeuvring.

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